President Donald Trump warned Saturday that the United States would inflict ‘severe punishment’ if it’s proven true that Saudi officials killed Jamal Khashoggi.
The Saudi journalist, Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi leadership disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork for a wedding. Turkish police investigating his disappearance believe he was killed inside the consulate by 15 Saudis who visited Oct. 2, and left the country the same day.
CBS reporter Lesley Stahl asked Trump if he believes that Khashoggi has been killed by the Saudis upon the prince’s order in a clip of a “60 Minutes” interview to be aired in full at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday on CBS News.
Trump said he did not know yet, but “as of this moment they deny it, and they deny it vehemently.”
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“In the not too distant future, I think we’ll know an answer,” he added.
“There’s a lot at stake, a lot at stake. And maybe especially so, because this man was a reporter,” Trump said. “There’s something, and you’ll be surprised to hear me say that, but there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case. So we’re going to have to see. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
As far as sanctions, he wasn’t clear on what they would be, but he said that he wouldn’t want to lose a military equipment order affecting companies such as Boeing and Lockheed.
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“I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do,” Trump said, “I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing.”
Saudi officials deny any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, and they have said that he had left the building shortly after entering, but have not provided evidence.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is also demanding “the truth” regarding Khashoggi’s whereabouts, the BBC reported.
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“We need to have a strong request for the truth to be clear,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told BBC Economics Editor Kamal Ahmed at the International Monetary Fund meeting in Bali. “We need to know exactly what has happened, and we need to know exactly who is responsible and, of course, when we see the multiplication of this kind of situation I think we need to find ways in which accountability is also demanded.”
US. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that if the Saudis are found guilty of killing Khashoggi in a U.S. investigation there would be a strong reaction.
“I would unleash the sanctions from Hades,” Graham said. “I want to make an example of this government if they did this. I don’t want anybody else thinking that if they have an alliance with us we don’t care about values.”
Graham told Al Jazeera that U.S. intelligence already point to Saudi government involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Turkish officials told the Washington Post Thursday that they have audio and video recordings supporting their belief that a 15-member Saudi team detained, killed and dismembered Khashoggi inside the consulate.
Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch that recorded his death, the Sabah newspaper reported.